Software Testing Craftsmanship influence on personal development plans

Since I will be attending the Software Craftsmanship Conference in London on 26th February 2009, I started to making up my mind on what I believe to be in the field of Software Testing Craftswomen and -men. This entry is a follow-up on Skillset Development, which I came up with earlier. Since I wrote the just mentioned article, I started to think about the Craftsmanship aspect of Software Testing. While I previously just thought on development of a skill in ShuHaRi terms, Craftsmanship describes a combination of skills as apprentice, journeyman and master. (Usually I compare this with Star Wars Jedi ranks: Padawan, Jedi Knight and Jedi Master, but I don’t know if George Lucas has the copyrights on these terms.)

This year I took some time with my two sub-workers and discussed a personal devleopment plan with each of them. The results seemed to be successful for both of them, so I decided to share the approach we took. Basically I began with the introduction of ShuHaRi for individual skill development, also mentioning the part of the interrelationships – there is Shu in the Ha stage and both Shu and Ha in the Ri stage. For visualisation purposes I painted three circles in the inner-most I wrote Shu, the middle one I denoted with Ha and the outer-most circle was labelled Ri.

Then I began to introduce the craftsmanship aspect of our business. I wrote down on a opposed side of the whiteboard the terms apprentice, journeyman and master and introduced that we met in order to get a common picture where the individual colleague would classify himself and what we could do in order to move the classification down in the next year, i.e. from journeyman to master on the scale. While the classification seemed to be not very obvious and fluent, it gave us a good rule of thumb in the process to follow.

After introducing my view on what targets we could settle for a personal development plan for each of the two, we divided the work we do in our test group into subsequent groups, which we identified on a individual basis. Here are the main categories we came up with for both:

  • Technical skills
  • Leading skills
  • Collaboration skills

Please note that I consider these categories to be team-, culture- and organisation-dependent. On the technical skills we came up with test methodology as discussed by too many books out there and programming skill for test automation. During the past year we introduced the Framework for Integrated Tests in our team. Since we could not build upon much support from our development team, we had to write the fixture code ourselves and I introduced many aspects from test-driven development, design patterns and refactoring combined with pair programming and continuous integration. Therefore the programming skills were included in both sessions.

For the leading part I described that I see two parts for applying leading skills in our group. Either on the technical lead within our project structure or as a group leader of the group. Since the latter job is quite taken by me, the opportunities for technical lead remained. While I put one of my colleagues into a major project as a technical lead for the testing part, this topic was very interesting for him. My other colleague told me that he thinks he is far enough on the technical side to become a leader there. That seemed reasonable to me, so we did not spend much time on this topic.

The last main category just covered skills you need in order to collaborate with people outside our group. This includes for example presentations on topics, working together with people from the development team and project management and etiquette. This topic I found a bit difficult to manage during the sessions, but we made it through.

After discussing each sub-items we would like to take a look on, we first of all identified where each of the two was currently located based on a categorization of ShuHaRi. Jointly we went through each major category, identified topics we would like to consider and wrote one to three things down together with a good guess where the individual saws himself. After getting the current development status, we were ready to review the list and identify steps to work on in the current year. For each previously mentioned item we discussed whether we need to improve and what we can do about this. On some of the topics we were able to identify two to three items we would like to try out. All this was written down on a flipchart page, which we took afterwards with us.

When we were finished with each individual list, we agreed on a review date for the list. The more junior colleague suggested to take a look back on it after 3 months, my other one suggested 6 months as a period. After talking to each of them, we additionally agreed to hang the flipchart out in our office right at their desk as a reminder in our day-to-day work.

I would appreaciate feedback on this approach in the comments. If you have some thoughts on how I could improve this process, I would be glad if you wrote down a note on this. Hopefully I will be able to come up with a list of skills I see relevant for a software tester in some more months by following this approach.

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One thought on “Software Testing Craftsmanship influence on personal development plans”

  1. I was supposed to be attending the Craftsmanship conference but sadly cannot make it – but like you it has also started off some thoughts about what Software Testing Craftsmanship would be.
    Will try to give this some more thought but wanted to let you know that I’ll be following this blog with keen interest

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